JERUSALEM – Major news media outlets are presenting a misleading picture of the current situation in Bethlehem, blaming an obscure, leaderless “wave of violence” – purportedly instigated by both Israel and the Palestinians – for a downturn in the number of tourists visiting the historic city this Christmas season.
The outlets in question completely ignore the rampant Palestinian incitement that is driving the current violence and fail to report that the pseudo-intifada is instigated almost entirely by the Palestinians.
Also missing from the reportage is the larger story of Bethlehem’s dwindling Christian population. Over the last two decades, Christians have been fleeing persecution at the hands of Muslims.
A case in point is an AFP article republished in numerous newspapers and websites titled, “Unrest puts heavy damper on Bethlehem Christmas festivities.”
The piece reports that “a wave of violence and protests has deterred many tourists from making the annual pilgrimage to the ancient city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, though much of the unrest has occurred away from Bethlehem, usually considered a safe destination.”
The article does not distinguish between Israeli victims of terrorism and Palestinian terrorists killed by Israelis in self-defense. As the AFP states:
The violence has killed 120 on the Palestinian side, several of them in and around Bethlehem, as well as 17 Israelis, an American, and an Eritrean.
Similarly, the Catholic News Service published an article titled, “Few pilgrims, no sales: Mideast situation dampens Bethlehem Christmas.”
The first paragraph draws a moral equivalence between Palestinian terrorists and their victims as if both sides are equally to blame.
‘Though the Christmas tree was lit in Nativity Square in the traditional ceremony, and some pre-Christmas parades have taken place, the Christmas spirit this year in Bethlehem has been dampened by the political situation which, since October, has taken the lives of almost 100 Palestinians and 22 Israelis.’
The article also distorts the cause of the violence, implying that “extremist Jews” provoked the Palestinians.
‘The most recent violence that has limited the tourists followed attempts by extremist Jews to visit and pray at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif compound, which is holy to both Jews and Muslim. Riots have broken out in the West Bank, and Palestinians have stabbed Israeli civilians as well as Israeli police and soldiers, both within the Green Line and in the West Bank.’
The “extremist Jews” in question were guilty of simply wanting to pray at Judaism’s holiest site.
The Catholic News Service failed to report that the Palestinian media fabricated a Jewish “threat” to the Al Aqsa Mosque in order to incite Palestinians to violence.
On the Temple Mount, the outlawed radical Islamic Movement has been mobilizing Arab youth in an attempt to smuggle fire bombs, pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails, and stones into the site in order to attack Jews.
While Palestinian media outlets have been broadcasting misinformation about Israeli police storming the Al Aqsa mosque unprovoked, Islamic Movement-tied youth have been using the mosque as a staging area to attack Jews. The goal seems to be to draw Israeli security forces into the sensitive mosque compound and thus fuel the cycle of rumors regarding Israeli incursions.
The Catholic News Service also neglected to mention that, while claiming there is an Israeli plot against the Al Aqsa mosque, hundreds of Palestinians in October set fire to the Joseph’s Tomb complex, causing severe damage to the revered burial place, considered Judaism’s third holiest site.
The news service went on to complain.
Bethlehem depends on the tourism industry, which has been hard hit for the past two months. Hotels are reporting dismal occupancy rates and no new reservations for the coming months, noted Manhal Assaf, director of the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism Information Office in Bethlehem.
Meanwhile, the Guardian blamed “recent violent incidents” for putting a damper on “this year’s Christmas celebrations in the holy city.”
“Fewer streets were decorated, some festivities were cancelled, and there was no fireworks display, which traditionally marks the lighting of the Christmas tree,” the Guardian reported. The newspaper did not specify which “violent incidents” it was referring to.
The Guardian noted that progress in Bethlehem is difficult because “82% of Bethlehem falls inside Area C, which is territory under direct Israeli military and administrative control.”
The newspaper, like other media outlets, glossed over a far more important statistic. At Israel’s founding, Bethlehem was 80% Christian. But after the city was handed over to the Palestinians as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords, the city’s Christian population plummeted to 23%. And that statistic includes the satellite towns of Beit Sahour and Beit Jala. Christians now make up only about 12% of the population in the city limits.
What accounts for the Christian exodus?
As reported at WND:
‘As soon as he took over Bethlehem, Arafat unilaterally fired the city’s Christian politicians and replaced them with Muslim cronies. He appointed a Muslim governor, Muhammed Rashad A-Jabar, and deposed of Bethlehem’s city council, which had nine Christians and two Muslims, reducing the number of Christians councilors to a 50-50 split.
‘Arafat then converted a Greek Orthodox monastery next to the Church of Nativity, the believed birthplace of Jesus, into his official Bethlehem residence.
‘Suddenly, after the Palestinians gained the territory, reports of Christian intimidation by Muslims began to surface.
‘Christian leaders and residents told this reporter they face an atmosphere of regular hostility. They said Palestinian armed groups stir tension by holding militant demonstrations and marches in the streets. They spoke of instances in which Christian shopkeepers’ stores were ransacked and Christian homes attacked.
‘They said in the past, Palestinian gunmen fired at Israelis from Christian hilltop communities, drawing Israeli anti-terror raids to their towns.’
Human rights lawyer Justus Weiner told CBN News:
‘The threat of persecution, including beatings and forced marriages between Christian women and Muslim men, are some of the reasons Christians have left.’
Christians in Bethlehem also speak of their land being unilaterally confiscated by Muslim gangs.
“There are many cases in which Christians have their land stolen by the [Muslim] mafia,” said Samir Qumsiyeh, a Bethlehem Christian leader and owner of the Beit Sahour-based private Al-Mahd (Nativity) TV station.
“It is a regular phenomenon in Bethlehem. They go to a poor Christian person with a forged power of attorney document, and then they say we have papers proving you’re living on our land. If you confront them, many times the Christian is beaten. You can’t do anything about it. The Christian loses, and he runs away,” Qumsiyeh said.
Last year, a Christian woman from Bethlehem revealed to Fox News that her uncle was murdered because he refused to pay the jizyah, or “protection tax” to Muslims there.
In October, Breitbart News reported on threats to the First Baptist Church of Bethlehem, which has been bombed 14 times.
Apparently, the news media is mysteriously uninterested in highlighting the true plight of Bethlehem’s Christians or the real reasons for this year’s downturn in tourist visits to the city.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.